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The indispensable preposition di

The preposition di is one of the most common prepositions in the Italian language. Its basic definition, or rather, translation, is "of."

 

The title of a Yabla video about the famous Olivetti typewriter is La forza di un sogno. Here we can translate directly: "The strength of a dream."

 

Di = "of" in many cases.

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One way di is used is to show the purpose of something. In this case, we might have two nouns separated by di (of) After di, we don't need the article of the noun, when we are referring to purpose, although there may be exceptions to this.

 

 

A scuola di musica is the title of a series of videos about what the musical notes are called in Italian. If you like to play music, this might interest you.

 

In English, we can say "school of music" or we can say "music school." They mean the same thing. In Italian, we don't have the choice, except in some certain circumstances we won't worry about just now.

 

Just as we have la scuola di musica, where di means "of,"  we can guess the meaning of other, similar series of words connected by di.

 

un negozio di vino - wine shop

un museo di arte moderna - modern art museum or, museum of modern art

una casa di caccia - hunting lodge

uno studio di registrazione - recording studioun 

un professore di storia - history professor

 

In English, we can often use a noun as an adjective as in "wine shop," but in Italian we start with "shop" (negozio) and add di plus the kind of shop it is, also a noun.

 

Apostrophe for possession in English, but not in Italian

To show possession in English, we sometimes use the apostrophe, which we don't use in Italian. To translate in a parallel way, we have to turn the phrase around in English and imagine using "of," even though to use it sounds kind of awkward. 

 

For example, one Yabla video is called Battesimo di Philip.  In English, we could say, "Philip's baptism," but in Italian this form doesn't exist. We need di. In the caption itself, we've used the same formula for the English translation. It could have been: "my son Philip's baptism."

La... il battesimo di mio figlio Philip.

The... the baptism of my son Philip.

Caption 17, Adriano Battesimo di Philip - Part 1

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Sometimes di means "from"

One the first things we learn in a new language is to say where we're from, because inevitabilmente (inevitably), we'll be asked that. 

 

The basic question is: di dove sei  (where are you from)?  For this we use the verb  essere (to be).

"Di dove sei" è una domanda che io faccio per chiedere a una persona dov'è nata, l'origine.

Where are you from is a question I ask to ask a person where he was born, his origins.

Captions 9-10, Corso di italiano con Daniela Preposizioni in e a

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Note that di is at the beginning of the question. For the answer, we start with the verb (with the personal pronoun incorporated into it). Di by itself works for towns and cities. States, regions, and countries can be more complicated but we won't worry about that right now.

Sono di New York (I'm from New York).

 

Di  can mean "at" regarding time.

Di can mean "at" when we're talking about night and day, morning, afternoon, or evening:

eh... cucinando di notte, perché sennò di giorno fa caldo,

uh... cooking at night because otherwise it's too hot during the day,

Caption 68, Cucinare con le spezie di Franco Calafatti Introduzione

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Di  can mean "about" 

Racconta la storia di un burattino di legno

It tells the story of a wooden puppet

Caption 31, Adriano Pizzeria Pinocchio - Part 1

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We could say, "Pinocchio is a story about a wooden puppet."

 

There are other ways in which we use di, too many to list here. But we will close with a few common ways to say, "You're welcome" with di.

 

If you want to minimize what you did for someone, you can say:

Di niente (it was nothing).

Di nulla (it was nothing).

Non c'è di che (there's nothing [to thank me] for).

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Emozionato or Nervoso? What's the Difference? 

Let's talk about emotions.

Le emozioni are "the emotions." That's a true cognate, but the Italian adjective emozionato doesn't have a true cognate.

 

Let's say you have to talk in front of the class, you have to play a solo in the next student concert, or you're receiving an award. What's the feeling you have?

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In English, we would probably use the adjective "nervous." But the adjective we naturally think of in Italian, nervoso, is more about being irritable, in a bad mood. When you are nervous about doing something new, difficult, exciting, the Italian adjective we're looking for is emozionato.

 

So emozionato can have a somewhat negative connotation in the sense that you try not to let your emotions get the better of you, yet your voice trembles, you get butterflies in your stomach...

 

"Nervous" is the closest we can get in this sense. It's when your emotions get the better of you in a negative way.

 

Ho messo il mio vestito migliore per l'occasione

I put on my best outfit for the occasion

e sono in anticipo di un paio di minuti,

and I'm a couple of minutes early,

tanto per essere sicura. Sono molto emozionata.

just to be sure. I'm very nervous.

Captions 2-5, Italiano commerciale - Colloquio di lavoro

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The funny thing is that emozionato also means "excited," in other words, a positive emotion. It's not always crystal clear what someone means when they use emozionato, as in the previous example, where Arianna might have been more excited than nervous. We can only guess from the context. In the following example, Adriano may be both nervous and excited, since the baptism of his baby boy is about to take place in a very special chapel in Palermo.

 

Con tutti i nostri parenti, festeggeremo questo giorno importante

With all our relatives, we'll celebrate this important day

nella Cappella Palatina di Palermo. Io sono molto emozionato.

in the Palatine Chapel of Palermo. I'm very excited.

Captions 21-23, Adriano - Battesimo di Philip

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Nervoso, on the other hand, often has to do with "stress," an English word that has become ubiquitous in Italian, too.

 

Stressato. Nervoso.

Stressed. Irritable.

Caption 17, Marika spiega - Le emozioni

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When someone is nervoso, you tiptoe around so they don't snap at you. You don't want to get on their nerves. In fact, Italians use il nervoso as a noun to mean "nerves," as in:

Mi fa venire il nervoso.
He gets on my nerves.
He irritates me.

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For more about emotions, see this video.

Vocabulary

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